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AT LEAST 40 members of pseudo-humanitarian group the White Helmets have admitted to staging chemical attacks in Syria, according to a new study by a Russian think tank.
Spokesman Maxim Grigoriev unveiled the results of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy’s research, which purported to show the group had faked attacks to provoke a reaction against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We have interviewed 40 members of the White Helmets, including those from Douma, who provided a detailed description of their methods commonly used by their organisation to fake scenes,” he said.
Mr Grigoriev reported that one woman interviewed said that she was handed a white burial shroud in which to wrap herself and then told to lay on the ground and smear her mouth with toothpaste.
Russia, which backs Mr Assad’s government, providing military support to the fight against jihadist groups, has long claimed the White Helmets have committed crimes in Syria.
In February, the Foreign Ministry’s Ilya Rogachyov called for the group to be put on trial for “attempts to mislead the international community by means of fake chemical weapons attacks” which he branded “terrorist activity.”
Earlier this month Moscow claimed to have uncovered an attempt by the group to stage a chemical attack in Idlib province and blame the Syrian government and Russian forces.
Mr Grigoriev explained that his foundation had conducted a fact-finding mission in Syria, speaking to members of the White Helmets along with those who took part in its faked films.
“Those people told us in detail how they had to participate in the staging for a few dollars to buy some food for their families,” he said.
“Amar al-Mustafa Ibn Mohammad from Aleppo saw with his own eyes how they simulated a chemical attack. They brought children, laid them down, put civilians away and filmed children as if they died in the chemical attack,” Mr Grigoriev said.
He said the survey brought into question the justification for air strikes launched by Britain, France and the US after an apparent chemical attack in Douma last April, which both Syria and Russia insist did not happen.
Mr Grigoriev explained that the foundation had interviewed 15 witnesses at the site of the alleged attack and 40 members of the White Helmets who admitted they had staged the event.
The White Helmets were set up in 2013 by former British Army officer James Le Mesurier.
The organisation, which claims the official title Syria Civil Defence, strenuously denies links with jihadist groups and insists it is a humanitarian organisation which offers aid to those affected by the ravages of war.
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